Thursday, March 4, 2010

33rd America's Cup - The Waiting Days

Written Saturday, Feb. 13, 2010
Valencia, Spain

One would think that with all the racing delays that we would be well rested by now, but it has been quite the opposite. WIth each potential racing day we are up very early. Our day begins with breakfast before dawn at the hotel lobby. Even on Friday, Feb. 12 when we knew there was going to be a delay, we were still up before dawn. We get our special badge for the day along with a certain colored wristband and board the Oracle bus to head down to the BMW/ Oracle base at Port America's Cup. Of course our early morning start doesn't even compare to what the sailors are going through - with breakfast starting for them at 3:45 am.

The first two potential race days (Feb. 8 & 10) we were at the base shortly after 7:00. On Friday, Feb. 12 it was a little after 8:00, so that two hour delay didn't really help the spectators regarding "sleeping in." Backing up just a bit, the night BEFORE a potential race day, even though I try to get to bed early, is filled with excitement and anticipation of the day to come. The rumors are fly everywhere about if there will be delays, what is happening with the weather, what is this base saying or that base saying. Add in a little jet lag and you have the makings for some very sleepless nights. It is a wonder what a little adrenalin can do to keep you going during these events.

Back to the race days ... On Monday and Wednesday (Feb. 8 & 10) we received the full VIP treatment. It certainly pays to know and be friends with the Commodore and the Staff Commodore from the club. As VIP's we did get to leave the base a bit later in the morning. At the base there is plenty of entertainment - more coffee and OJ, breakfast treats to feed an army and of course champagne. There are live feeds from "the yard" which is where our boat is living during this event. In a little alcove off the room where we are all mingling about one notices cameras and commentators and some sort of official activity going on. These are the team commentators who are interviewing people and talking about what potentially will happen that day on the water - everyone else is watching on TV and we are seeing it all live.

Then comes the "Morning Show" in the auditorium. This is a full on program that BMW/ Oracle Racing (BOR) puts on every morning. It talks about the history of the Cup, how we got to where we are, our boat and team and then what the outlook for the day will be. Although this is a bit of a "dog and pony show" it is very nice for the sponsors and guests who may not know about the Cup and sailing. I went on Monday - that was enough for me. For those that don't want to be in the room, there is a video feed out to the main room so no one really misses anything while at the base.

The Morning Show ends and the first spectators to depart are those on the Friends and Family boat. This is a large ferry boat that is kept just down from the base. There are maybe three bus loads full of family and friends (F&F) who head out on that boat each day. So the VIP's are still at the base. When it gets to be about an hour before a potential race start, the VIP's are escorted to their boats (there are three) where they continue to receive the FULL treatment. Each boat has maybe 30 people and there must be about 15 staff on board just to keep those 30 people happy. This was our program for Monday and Wednesday. Very nice.

Off the dock we go. On Monday we headed directly to the windward mark and just waited there all day. Waited. Waited. Waited. Eventually the race was cancelled and we headed back in. It was a full day. Don't feel too sorry for me - I was waiting in the lap of luxury so it wasn't too hard to do. Wednesday we found out shortly after we headed out that the race would be cancelled for the day so we were allowed to do a "drive by" in our boats of "the yard" where our boat is on her mooring. This was a treat as this is a restricted area and boats can't just go motoring into the harbor where our boat lives. It did make for a nice photo op, but this was not the type of picture I really wanted from this event. Again, can't really complain with the treatment we were receiving. Not exactly a difficult way to spend the day and I know it sounds funny to still be disappointed but I did end the day a bit down.

Each boat, be it a VIP or F&F has big screen TV's on board which stream the virtual race. Along with that come some representatives of BOR who are there to assist with commentating and answer questions that spectators might have. Truly the BEST way to watch the race - it simply does not get any better than being right there along with specialist to talk you through it - if only there was racing. The BOR representatives on the VIP boats are some pretty big names in the organization - members of the actual design team, members of the sailing team who are not on the boat - really top notch. So on these non-race days we learn about the wing, we rub elbows with other VIP's like the team who created the laser wind reader which I even got to try out. Yes, for this event, GGYC membership certainly has it privileges.

After our time on the water we would head back to the base. Now the food has changed to passed snacks - little sandwiches and such. More champagne. Press conferences on the screens. Everyone chatting about the day and the frustration of not seeing any racing. More rumors flying. And then it is time to think about dinner. You know for sure that you don't have to do it all the next day, so dinner is late. Well, dinner is late anyway here in Valencia. The lucky ones - or maybe it is the smart ones - head back to the hotel for a nap. This has not been me or by the time I make it back and close my eyes, my phone rings and I get distracted and don't nap. Around 8:00 pm we meet in the lobby and decide where to go for dinner. We are lucky to be home by midnight. Remember that we have started our day before dawn. It is a long, long day.

And then came Friday. We thought we were in for the same routine but it was anything but!
On that note, I need to sign off and get some lunch, run some errands. I have plenty more to tell. I'm having a BLAST! And yes - I'm happy with my pictures so far. :)